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I am really happy working on my current project, with my current team and manager. My manager told me I have been nominated for a promotion but there's some resistance from HR given some circumstances we can't control. So my promotion can happen any time now, or maybe next year, which is the time I actually expect it to happen.

A couple of days ago, I was approached by a recruiter about a position with another company. While I am not really looking for a job for the reasons I explained before, the company and the technology look very interesting and the company's culture is very attractive.

I decided to send my resume to the recruiter and I am about to begin the interview process, but I feel very guilty becasue:

a) I might be making the new company's recruiter and interviewers waste their time, or
b) If I eventually accept an offer with this company, I will have thrown away my manager's efforts to get me the promotion I will be wasting.

An additional concern is, if I end up receiving an offer, how much would I expect? I really don't know how much would be my salary increase with the promotion I am expecting, but I suppose I should ask for a better offer from the new company.

So, to sum up, my questions are:

  1. Is it ethical to leave when a promotion has been "promised"?
  2. How much should I expect or try to get in my offer from the new company? Is it wrong to ask for an increase based on a salary I don't have yet?
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Your manager hasn't promised you a promotion; he's said he's trying to get you one. Until it happens it's speculative. –  Monica Cellio Sep 2 '12 at 1:52
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I can't help but suspect that the circumstances may just change if you have another job offer on the table - the possibility of losing you could easily make the difference between offering you the promotion now, or at some unspecified time in the future. –  Mark Booth Sep 3 '12 at 10:27
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Do you have this future promotion in writing? –  JeffO Sep 4 '12 at 17:31
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So my promotion can happen any time now, or maybe next year.! Will you be able to wait for a year. Will you get promotion for sure.? how much will you be getting from the new company. Be professional. Just get the new job and tell your current employer that I have been offered this much, but I'm still waiting for hearing from you. –  Sahil Mahajan Mj Jan 21 '13 at 12:25
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never feel guilty for looking out for your best interests in your career. Remember, you are likely the only one that is. –  DA. Mar 27 '13 at 17:33

7 Answers 7

You must always, always, always be open to new opportunities. You do not have personal obligations to your manager or colleagues. If someone recruits you and wants a resume, and there is a possibility you would make a move, send it. That is the only way to keep track of your market value.

Your consideration for other people's time is misplaced. Your time is valuable, and your career is important. No one else is going to look after it. Never worry about wasting someone else's time if you are acting in good faith. They choose how to spend their time. It's not your responsibility.

How much should you ask for? More than you think. Don't be shy, but avoid adopting a "take it or leave it" attitude unless you really mean it. If you are happy where you are, do not take less than 20% more than your current salary. This means you should propose a number that is at least 25% more than you are currently making. Keep in mind that they contacted you, which means they have an immediate need for talent and should be willing to pay well.

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+1 to You do not have personal obligations to your manager or colleagues. And your company don't have any personal obligations to you either. So the promised promotion may never happened. That may be due to circumstances beyond anybody's control. –  tehnyit Sep 5 '12 at 14:03
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"... they currently have no other attractive options. If they did, they wouldn't be calling." I don't agree, as they may have other candidates they are considering. Otherwise good answer. –  GreenMatt Mar 22 '13 at 16:05

Is it ethical to leave when a promotion has been "promised"? How much should I expect or try to get in my offer from the new company? Is it wrong to ask for an increase based on a salary I don't have yet?

Yes its ethical. You are free pursue your best interests just as the company will be pursuing theirs.

You should ask for a salary based on your worth to the employer. If you have the skills and experience to justify a higher salary you should ask for it. Its fine to let the new company know your in the pipelines for a promotion so want to make sure the move doesn't leave you less well paid.

My advise though would be to be honest chat with your current employer before looking for new work. Let them know you really want this promotion and why you feel you deserve it. Also let them know that without the progression you feel you deserve you will have to consider looking elsewhere. If a manager risks losing one of their good employees they can often get a few rules bent to keep them.

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Always be looking for the next job

That was perhaps the best bit of career advice I've ever had. In doing so, you'll always have the upper hand going forward.

You may still want to wait for the promotion, but if a better thing comes along before then, you'll know it's better, and the promotion will likely be moot.

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To answer your specific questions:

  1. Yes. Or at least it's just as ethical as it would be if no promotion has been offered. The fact that they say they're trying to get you a promotion in no way obligates you to stay if you decide you'd rather go somewhere else.

  2. That really depends upon your position, your industry, your skills, your current salary, and your negotiation ability. I'd suggest checking a salary site like GlassDoor if you want specific figures. And I'd also suggest that you not frame your discussion with your new employer in terms of "I want $X more than my current salary". Just simply say "I'm looking for a salary of $Y, and I'm really not interested in anything less". If they decide to give you a hard time over that, then just say "thank you for your time, goodbye".

More generally, this isn't really a case where you can only do one option or the other. It's entirely possible to both look for a new job and wait for your promotion at the same time. In fact, that's what I'd recommend, since you say you're happy with your current position. So there's no point it just throwing that away. But there's also never any harm in keeping your eyes open and investigating new opportunities as they arise.

And don't worry about wasting anybody's time. Recruiters and interviewers are paid to deal with these situations. They know not everyone they interview will be currently unemployed, or dead set on accepting an offer, or even remotely qualified for the position they're applying for. It's their job to deal with these things. So I'd suggest using the fact that you're comfortable with your current position to your advantage, and making it very clear to your interviewer/recruiter that you're very happy with your current employer and that it would take a very attractive offer to lure you away.

Having a job you're happy with gives you a great advantage in terms of interviewing with other employers. Exploit it.

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Regarding wasting the recruiters time. They approached you, that means they have approached others, therefore they understand that some of the people they talked to were not seriously looking for a job. So go on the interview. You will gain experience regarding the process, you may even end up getting an amazing offer.

Your manager has promised you a promotion, but has not yet delivered the promotion. It might never happen. You have to ask yourself if you haven't seen the promotion in a year what will you do. If it happen in a few months great. In the meantime you will be interviewing for this new position.

It will take a month or two for the hiring process to be complete. You don't need to decide if you really want to leave until they make a written offer.

Assuming the decision will be based mostly on money you have to put some numbers into perspective. Take your last salary increase of X%. If you don't get 2 or 3 times that increase it wasn't really a promotion. If the new company can beat that salary level you may decide that the increase now is better than waiting for something that might not happen.

Yes, ask for that higher amount. If you were about to be laid off, or were unemployed, or if you needed to get out of bad company, then you would not want to ask for a high salary. But you have a job you like so they need to make an offer, that makes it worth your while.

The money and the benefits and the environment have to overcome not just a possible promotion, but also the pain and suffering involved in switching companies.

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Is it ethical to leave when a promotion has been "promised"?

Yes. Even if they promote you tomorrow - if there's a job that looks interesting, there is nothing unethical in interviewing, the two are not related.

How much should I expect or try to get in my offer from the new company? Is it wrong to ask for an increase based on a salary I don't have yet?

I honestly doubt they will care. They are looking at you to fill a role. The role you have plays a factor, because it shows the work you are capable of doing. The role you might have is less of a factor - knowing you are well-respected and in for a promotion may show that you have the ongoing goodwill of your current company, but not much else.

In the end, their decision will be based on how much great stuff they think you'll be able to do at the new job, and what their basis for paying anyone is. Corporate promotion structures are not really transferable, so it doesn't help a lot.

But....

In my experience a bit of clarity doesn't hurt. Saying on the interview "I'm not really looking, but you enticed me to come interview with your incredibly interesting work" - is no bad thing. It both sets up the expectation that you are not desperate, so the offer had better be good, and it is a nice compliment - everyone wants to be an employer of choice with interesting work.

Telling your current boss what you are up to is a bit more problematic. Job interviews come and go, so letting him know just because you went on an interview may be seen as being very pushy. At the same time, if the offer gets serious, saying "hey, I have serious interest from this other company, I like it here, but I'm frustrated by the promotion situation" - may just give your manager the ammunition he needs to honestly go back to HR and say "seriously, stop dragging your feet, we risk loosing a really good person because you can't approve this promotion!!!".

Given that situation, you have nothing to feel guilty about - you'll have been honest all around, and put forth that you are loyal and dedicated. Not bad by anyone's book.

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"Nominated for a promotion" isn't worth the breath it takes to say it. Ok - sure - it's a nice thing to be told, but if you're taking a hard-headed look at your business relationship with your employer it means almost nothing.

Even more seriously "resistance from HR given some circumstances we can't control" translates directly to "I want to appear nice, and have you stay even though you should be promoted, so I'll blame some mysterious thing over at HR".

Take the interview - give it your best. You're not wasting their time, you are giving them the opportunity to recruit you. You haven't decided yet whether to stay or go. You never know, once you look more closely, the other job might be more attractive than getting the promotion would be.

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